Violence against minors, lack of intervention and assistance for victims

“Sentenced to 17 years of deprivation of liberty”, – this is the decision taken by the Tirana Court of Appeals two years ago for the citizen Q.N, who for a long time had violent sexual relations with his minor daughter. The court’s decision to leave the three children in the custody of the mother after the dissolution of the marriage, did not prevent the 65-year-old from taking the children back to his home and continuously abusing his little daughter.

“He was very controlling towards her”, the witness sister of the victim testified before the court, who admits that the mother and the minor’s aunt were also aware of the relationship that the abusive father had established with her daughter. “When I was 8 years old, I remember that one day my father was drunk and we were walking down the street together. When there was no one around, he pulled her, kissed her on the lips and let her go“, she testified, affirming that she did not react before because of the fear that Q.N could exercise physical violence against her.

During the court session, the victim, now an adult, admitted that in 2012, as a result of continuous abuse, she underwent an abortion. “The fact that the victim had an abortion is also confirmed by the scientific evidence, a consolidated copy of the original medical chart of the citizen sent by the Obstetrics and Gynecology University Hospital ‘Queen Geraldine'”, – it is stated in the minutes of the court session.

Sexual abuse of minors, the official figures

8 (eight) cases of sexual abuse of minors were registered by the State Police from January 1 to September 30 of this year, according to the official response of this institution to the Albanian Center for Quality Journalism. Meanwhile, the police informs through the language of numbers that there were 10 cases where the abused between the ages of 14 and 18 denounced the abusers for the criminal offense of “violent sexual/homosexual relations”.

“Statistical data show that 1 in 10 children are victims of violence and sexual harassment”, – tells ACQJ Altin Hazizaj, one of the founders of the “Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights in Albania”, who admits that “compared to countries of the European Union, Albania has an under-reporting in this regard”.

Brunilda Laboviti, Psychologist

According to Hazizaj, from the monitoring that the “Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights” has made of the reports coming from the CPU (Child Protection Unit) or the Police, it results that for the period 2020-2021, there are at least 100 cases of sexual violence against children and adolescents.

“The factors that influence the high number of sexual abuses among minors are psychosocial factors, the lack of recognition of personal boundaries”, – says psychologist Brunilda Laboviti for ACQJ, according to which the lack of technology monitoring is another reason why the most vulnerable children can fall prey to sexual abuse.

“Also, living in an extended family with other relatives can be risk factors for children”, concludes Laboviti.

Meanwhile, for the sociologist and lecturer of Sociology, Gëzim Tushi, the increase in the number of sexual abuses against minors is the result of several factors “among which is the insufficient work done by the family, the school, the media for the education of the few children and young people in society”.

“The phenomenon of sex maniacs and terrible forms of sexual abuse of children have increased and expanded in society. The extent of this particular type of sexual crime, even as much as it is declared in the media and the public, is disturbing. Not counting here, that there can certainly be many clandestine, hidden and undeclared abusive relationships”, says Tushi.

The State Agency for the Rights and Protection of Children (ASHDMF) informs the ACQJ that 73 cases of sexual abuse of minors were registered in the country during 2021, while 155 cases of physical violence against minors were registered.

These numbers raise questions not only about the effectiveness of the tools available to potential minor victims of sexual abuse, but also the difference between the numbers reported by the State Police and other state agencies.

Study: Minor survivors of sexual violence, without institutional support 

The joint study of ECPAT International with CRCA/ECPAT Albania shows that children and adolescents who have survived sexual violence in the country “lacked professional services for dealing with the consequences of violence or even information on how to protect themselves from sexual violence”.

“All the victims indicated that they had received only partial services, not at all coordinated, often truncated or for a very short time”, – says for ACQJ Hazizaj who admits that for every institution there is a lack of protocol and basic standard.

Meanwhile, the State Agency for Children’s Rights and Protection announces that “case management is led by Child Protection Workers in cooperation with the Intersectoral Technical Group”. According to the official response of this institution, after the identification of a case of abuse of a minor, the initial evaluation is carried out within 24-48 hours.

Altin Haziraj, CRCA

“In principle we can say that only a very small number of children receive the basic services, but not all the necessary services that an individual needs to rehabilitate from the consequences that sexual violence and such a crime causes to the child” – concludes Hazizaj.

How can child abuse be prevented?

“CRCA/ECPAT Albania has been asking the Ministry of Education for at least 3 years to change the entire approach that this institution has against violence in general, and sexual violence in particular”, says Altin Hazizaj, feeling sorrow that not a single measure has been taken by the Ministry of Education so far.

“The Ministry of Health and the new Ministry of Children urgently need to develop new policies for the protection of children from sexual violence, the standards of services and the obligations that institutions have in this aspect”, says Hazizaj, highlighting the talks with The Ministry of Health has not brought results. “The lack of funds from the state budget prevents them from undertaking this reform that is so necessary for the protection of children”, – he says, adding that the Albanian legislation also needs changes.

Gëzim Tushi, Sociologist

“Do you know what is the biggest scandal in our Criminal Code? If for us, as experts, sexual violence against children is considered any action that an adult undertakes using the child as an object for achieving his sexual satisfaction, for the legislator in Albania sexual violence is considered only the penetration of the child by force!”, says Altin Hazizaj, according to which the classification as “obscene acts” or “sexual harassment” affects the non-punishment of a part of sexual crimes.

“One of the ways to protect families from sexual abuse is to create a culture of denunciation of any type or form of seduction, pressure or sexual harassment, whether verbal or physical,” says sociologist Tusha, according to whom it is necessary “to work for the improvement of indicators of sexual education, but above all of the qualities of work for the ‘humane education’ of children, teenagers, young people so that they understand the right relations of sexual behavior”.